WRC contenders take a step into unknown in Rally of Chile
Concepcion, Chile - Thierry Neuville is preparing for "a step into the unknown" with the first ever WRC rally staged in Chile adding an intriguing new ingredient to his title battle with Sebastien Ogier.
The Belgian leads multiple champion Ogier by 10 points going into this sixth leg of the season, the Hyundai driver on a roll after wins in the previous two rallies in Argentina and Corsica.
"It’s hard to set too many expectations when it promises to be a rally of surprise," Neuville told wrc.com.
"We only discovered the stages for the first time during the recce but it will be a nice challenge. A lot of work awaits us, but I’m looking forward to it.
"It's a step into the unknown for everybody."
Starting Friday the Rally of Chile is staged around the port city of Concepcion, mostly on forest tracks normally choc-a-bloc with trucks transporting wood sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Rio Biobio, Chile’s second biggest river.
Neuville, who has the disadvantage of setting off first, says there is a "positive spirit" around his team after Hyundai's 1-2 in Argentina.
Ogier had to settle for third last month on the other side of the Andes and is looking for more speed from his Citroen C3.
"I hope we’ll have slightly better performance here," said the French driver.
"From what I can tell by watching the videos available, the roads do seem really quite different to those we had in Argentina. The stages seem to be fairly flowing and fast."
Ott Tanak has been off the pace in the last two rallies, and as a result the Toyota Yaris driver has dropped from the lead to third, 28 points behind Neuville.
Chile is one of several rallies this year featuring 'retired' former multiple champion Sebastien Loeb, who is behind the wheel of a Hyundai.
The French rally star had a minor scare on his recce run on Wednesday when his car collided with a lorry.
"It was nothing serious, we're continuing the day as planned," the nine-time champion posted on Twitter.
Ahead of Loeb and company are 17 specials with over 300 kilometres of competition before the finish in Concepcion on Sunday.
Chile, which has played host to the Dakar Rally, is the 32nd country to stage a FIA WRC rally.